If you’ve been following me since my Lithe Diving days, you may have noticed that I love to include a bit of music somewhere in my posts. Whether I’m being brutally honest about the fact that I’m not the slightest bit hip, or that I unabashedly like pop music by the likes of Britney Spears (or Britney S. Pierce) and Ne-Yo, or just indulging in a bit of nostalgia with some classics, I like to leave you with something to hum along to...even if you hate yourself for it.
The famous Kabbalah guru, Madonna, once said the wise words, “Music. Brings the people. Together. Yeah.” And whether you consider yourself bourgeoisie or rebel, it’s no secret that music can have a transformative effect on your mood. It sets the tone and energy of whatever you happen to be doing while listening to it. It’s no surprise then, that this extends to Lithing. And in my three years in and out of the studio day after day, I’ve always wondered how exactly the music is selected for classes.
- Do the instructors bring their own iPods?
- If not, do they make their own playlists?
- Are there specific playlists designated for certain classes?
I went to Lauren with my burning questions, and she introduced me to Justine Masters, a sound designer who specializes in curating a musical identity for her clients, and has been doing just that for Lithe Method for the last 4 years.
Now, I like to think that I know my designers. Like all E! viewers, I love knowing who’s wearing what. I recently learned, for example, that Kim Kardashian reportedly dropped $100k at Hermes, on an array of the label’s famous Birkin bags, which start at $9,000 bucks and go as high as $240 grand A POP. And since Sarah Jessica Parker first pranced across the screen in her 5 inch Manolo Blahniks on Sex and the City, I’ve been drooling over the likes of Jimmy Choo and Giussepe Zanotti. But designer music?
That’s an entirely new concept for me--one I hoped that Justine could illuminate when I sat down with her to learn more about the music that meets our ears during our leg-quivering workouts. I wasn’t disappointed.
When I asked Justine what exactly a sound designer does and how that’s different from a traditional DJ, she explained it by saying, “When you are DJing at a club, playing popular songs is part of knowing how to work a crowd. In the realm of sound design, people are not on the dance-floor; they are having a drink at a bar, eating dinner, working out, lounging by the pool etc., so the music is a more subtle yet important factor in their experience.”
Justine has been creating those musical experiences since she was 13 years old. “I used to make mix cassette tapes for all my friends when I was in high school,” she said. “I couldn't help myself! When music excited me, I wanted others to experience that excitement also, so I made them tapes.”
In her current role as sound designer, Justine continues to share the music she loves, like: Nina Simone, The Police, Bob Marley, Sade and the Black Keys (to name a few) to curate playlists for boutique hotels, restaurants and high-profile, private clients. All admittedly different than music one needs to hear to sustain them through a workout as difficult as Lithe.
So how did she go about understanding Lithe’s musical needs, I asked her. “Lauren was looking for sounds that matched the energy flow and creativity of her workouts. She wanted the music to inspire her Lithers, not just serve as background noise, so I took some of her classes. I even took one without music, to understand what was missing.”
After realizing for herself how exhausting and demanding the classes were, Justine knew exactly what the music pumping through the speakers at Lithe need to do. “I selected songs with one thing in mind: motivation,” she said. “I wanted the music to be a motivator, an inspiration and an aid for getting through a class. When you are working out and sweating, your instincts become very primal, so the music I chose speaks to that energy.”
When I asked who decides what gets played in class, Justine said her playlists are designated as Hi-tempo, Mid -tempo and Slow-Mid Tempo. And with over 400 playlists to choose from, Lauren and the instructors make a choice from the vast and varied selection based on the pace of the class.
I went on to admit to Justine how much I love hearing top 40 hits in the studio. How hearing a song I know and recognize gives me such a boost in class, and wondered why she didn’t choose more music that Lithers may immediately recognize.
She responded by saying, “Lauren and I both agreed that Top 40 has a much shorter shelf life when played on repeat. Plus, we want the music to be as creative and out of the box as the workouts are! People are coming to Lithe for something different in their workout, so they should expect that in the music as well.”
I had to give it to her, there’s nothing worse than hearing Rihanna and Eminem telling me they love the way I lie for the 10th time in a one-hour car ride. If had to hear them duetting it up at Lithe too, I might jump out the window. (Now THAT’S some serious Lithe Stalling.)
“Ultimately,” she said, “I want to draw a positive attention to one's body--that is a big reason Lithers are in the studio--to be in tune with their bodies. Its about getting out of your head and into the movements.”
Now that’s certainly a tune I can get down to. As with everything in Lithe, it seems even the music has meaning, and is hand selected carefully to compliment the workout. I’ll certainly be listening with a new appreciation.
Images of Justine Masters: Justine at Miss P's Place in Jamaica, Justine singing, Lithe Escape Grenada with Ellen & Liz Solms and Justine in her hometown of NYC